Commissioner stretches for flexible APS

Australian Public Service (APS) Commissioner, John Lloyd, has set out a range of workplace issues to be examined by the APS Commission. He says a more flexible employment framework for the Australian Public Service is "vital" to deliver a high-performing public service.

The Commission is currently looking at ways of speeding up recruitment processes, easing the rules governing non-ongoing employment, looking into underperformance and considering the rules relating to termination of employment. So far, the government has set a target to reduce the cost of unnecessary or inefficient regulation imposed on individuals, business and community organisations by at least $1 billion a year.

Commissioner Lloyd said when regulation becomes excessive it impedes productivity and innovation. Therefore, it should be removed or reduced. "Steps are also being taken to reduce the red tape that the APS imposes on itself. We are reviewing what we impose and devising action to reduce it. Integral to our success will be the adoption of a new mindset to shift the way we approach our policy development and regulation setting. Regulation should not be a default option; it should be the last option."

For the APS to attract the "best and brightest" candidates to its ranks, recruitment times needed to be cut. "To do this we require contemporary recruitment processes which are effective in attracting and selecting good people. Too many recruitment processes take 12 weeks or more and the best people aren't going to wait 12 weeks."

Looking to overseas counterparts, Lloyd said Canada's systems and processes were more developed. The Canadian Public Service's arrangements for recruitment were subject to significant reforms in the Public Service Modernization Act (2003).

"A key goal of the Canadian reform was to create a more flexible staffing framework and to make their public service more attractive to the best and brightest employees. We are taking steps to improve the APS framework and attract talented people. The merit principle is a good example where we may identify improvements. It is important that we adhere to merit and ensure the brightest and most capable are hired. However in practice our efforts to comply with merit have made us too risk averse and focused on the process rather than the outcome," he said.

Finally, he added that it is important that public servants at all levels appreciate the impact their advice may have on the private sector. "Exchanges are being pursued which provide senior public servants with opportunities to work in the private sector on secondment. New learning tools are also being developed that are intended to give participants an insight into the regulations that need to be navigated to set up and run a business."

Further information on the government's agenda can be found at: cuttingredtape.gov.au.